“Co-Ed Found,” by Sharon Olds

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“Co-Ed Found,” by Sharon Olds, appeared in the Spring 1997 issue of MQR.

Even if the newspaper is upside down,
and partway under a park bench,
and stained by weather or animals,
even if you glance for only a second,
once you glimpse the head-shot of a young woman
next to a map
you don’t even need the arrow, fierce
partial torso diagonal on the map.
And the girls are always smiling, their shoulders
encased in graduation black
or bared down to the peeled-back petals of the
prom dress,
you wonder they let those pictures be taken—
as the shutter clicks, do they look up
and see the huge underslats
of the park bench?
And the map is odd and delicate, capillary
ripple of a random creek, it is like
a cross-section of flesh, wild and
local, inset with a small, large-scale
square to give us our bearings, although
they never show the whole country, or the
earth, or solar system—the girl’s
parents keep track of that—just names like
Mattapoisett, and the careful marking of the waste-field.

Image: Snyder, Joan. “Heart On.” 1975. Oil, acrylic, paper, fabric, cheesecloth, papier maché, mattress batting, and thread on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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